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Page last updated at 17:34 GMT, Wednesday, 27 May 2009 18:34 UK

Serb priest fired for 'beatings'

Video of alleged beating at Crna Reka rehabilitation centre (Vreme.com)
The footage was shown on Serbian TV (Image courtesy of Vreme magazine)

The priest in charge of a drug treatment centre where patients were allegedly beaten has been dismissed, the Serbian Orthodox Church said.

Archpriest Branislav Peranovic was no longer in charge of Crna Reka centre, near Novi Pazar, Bishop Artemije said after video of beatings was shown.

The centre remained open on the request of patients, the bishop added, but would be shut if beatings occurred.

The church said state authorities had been asked to investigate the violence.

Criminal charges against the centre and the priest have been filed by the government's human rights watchdog, Sasa Jankovic, Reuters news agency reported.

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The church's ruling body, the Holy Synod, had asked Bishop Artemije to shut the centre last week.

But in a statement on Wednesday, he said: "We will shut down the facility if the reports about beatings and violence persist."

There had been "numerous pleadings by the patients and their parents" to keep the centre open, he added.

About 200 patients are treated at the centre near the city of Novi Pazar, about 185 miles (300km) from Belgrade.

A video of one assault, published by Vreme magazine, shows a man appearing to assault a patient by hitting him with a shovel and punching his face.

Archpriest Peranovic had earlier told B92 television a "heavy hand" was needed.

"Whoever has a junkie in the house knows what I am talking about."



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